Weightlifting and Your Back

Back Pain from Weight Lifting

Weightlifting and Your Back

Weightlifting is a common type of exercises that improves strength and size of the skeletal
muscles, your back one of them. Although bodybuilding has many potential health benefits
for the spine, it also has potential to create or aggravate back injuries. In this article, we will
discuss the incidence of injury associated with Weightlifting, some examples of these
injuries, and how to avoid them.

Epidemiology of back problems among bodybuilders

Back diseases have been found to be one of the most common types of injuries found by
competitive weightlifters. This is illustrated by the rate of injuries in weight lifters was 2.4 to 3.3
injuries/1000 hours of training. In addition, an interesting study of vertebral spine MRI's in
athletes revealed that weightlifting had the second highest incidence of spinal disease (67%)
with 1.5 per 100 weightlifters mainly located to the lumbar spine.

Spinal injuries associated with weightlifting:

Using excessive weights and the execution of inappropriate techniques puts your back
in a compromising position that can lead to injury. Older people (e.g., over 50 years)
who practice weightlifting especially those who already have some disc degeneration
and osteoarthritis in their spines, make them more sensitive to strains during
Here are some of the most common back injuries associated with lifting weights.
1- Herniated disc :
This happens when an intervertebral disc which acts as a shock absorber for the spine,
becomes damaged and ruptures, the soft inner gel leaks out and the spine becomes less
cushioned. The gel may also irritate the surrounding nerves, particularly the cartilage found
in the fourth and fifth vertebra.
2- Muscle and ligament tears :
As their name indicates, they are painful and can be debilitating. The trouble is that when
muscle and ligament tears occur, the healing process could cause a scar to form, and this can
pose problems of its own, such as shortening the muscle, which in turn limits mobility.
3- Spinal shrinkage:
Spinal loading during weightlifting results in a loss of stature, which has been attributed to a
decrease in height of the intervertebral discs. However, studies have shown that any spinal
shrinkage that occurs during the day will return to normal after a night’s sleep.

Preventing Back Injuries from Weightlifting

Although there is no guarantee that you will not suffer back injuries by lifting weights, there are a few
things that could reduce the probability of any damage that will affect your spine, including:
  • Warming up properly and stretching before your session.
  • Make sure you never use your back to lift a weight and instead use the muscles you're aiming for.
  • Use less weight, but do more repetitions.
  • Consider using a training machine rather than free weights for certain weightlifting exercises
  • Do not perform exercises such as the clean-and-jerk, dead-lift, snatch, or squat without proper supervision
  • If you experience pain while lifting, stop immediately. Trying to push through the pain could cause injury.


Pros and cons of weightlifting belts:

Belts are often used during lifting of heavy weights presumably to support, stabilize and thus
reduce the load on the spine. The effectiveness of lifting belts remains controversial, in a study
on weightlifters reported a 10% decrease in compressive forces when wearing a tight and stiff
back belt. It provides a substantial amount of compression, which means that this lumbar spine
is kept nice and stable. However, another analysis revealed a higher incidence of spinal injury
in athletes using lifting belts for squats and deadlifts, probably due to non-physiological

How to treat back pain caused by lifting weights

If you suffer from back pain caused by lifting weights, the best thing you can do is ask for the
help of a chiropractor. Chiropractic care has been shown to be beneficial in dealing with pain
associated with weightlifting. The professional chiropractor will use a variety of techniques to
help reduce your pain and any inflammation in your spine, giving you a relief of your
symptoms. The most common technique is called manipulation and involves specific
movements designed to release joints in the spine or other areas of the body, which in turn
reduce pain and improve mobility.
In conclusion, back pain and weightlifting become both the problem and solution due
to the strengthening that weightlifting offers. While weightlifting and other forms of
strength training are becoming increasingly popular in maintaining individual physical
condition, proper knowledge of weightlifting techniques should be taken to reduce
back injuries in the weightlifting setting.

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